Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Kommt von irgendwo ein Lichtlein her"

My stepfather's first wife, a lively German-born woman, had fine china and subscribed to Hausfrau magazine, sent from Germany. She, Helen, very sadly died of ALS in her forties. Their house was filled with German objects and handicrafts, including a hand-painted and framed 12-line poem I happened to inherit. My high-school German allowed me to read it. It began:

Immer, wenn Du meinst
es geht nicht mehr,
kommt von irgendwo
ein Lichtlein her. . .

Always, when you think
you can't go on anymore,
comes from somewhere
a little light. . .

It continues to say, "so that you try once again, and sing from sunshine and joy, and your burdens feel lighter, and you again become cheerful."

The poem fits my artificial-sunlight lamp, brought out of storage to glow at my side on dark mornings or late afternoons. Often in September I begin to lose heart, find everything difficult, and enjoy nothing but tiny cups of espresso. I'm one of the millions with Seasonal Affective Disorder, so somebody invented this little lamp, sent to me by my sister Rose. I didn't believe it could help, but it does. When overused (more than two or three hours per day) you feel not sunshine and joy but as if you've ingested too much caffeine.

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